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16               A  SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
their hands to him to pray before bis countenance" Who can wonder that the Bedouins who live in the nearby village of Gizeh have plentiful traditions of spirits and ghosts flitting at night across the area around the Sphinx, which they regard as the most haunted spot on earth? For an ancient burial ground of this kind is like no modern one on earth, and in embalming the bodies of their best men, the Egyptians deliberately protracted the contact of these spirits with our world for an abnormal number of years.
Yes, night is the most appropriate time in which to view the Sphinx, for then, even to the dullest of us, the spirit world seems closer, our minds become more sensitive to previously unfelt sensations, while in the regnant darkness even the hard shapes of the environing material world assume ghostly outlines. The night sky was now purple-indigo, a mystic colour that suited my enterprise well.
The stars had increased in number till they domed the darkened world by the score. The moon, too, made its strengthened contribution to light up. the silent spectral scene around me.
The long recumbent lion's body stretched itself out more visibly still upon the oblong platform of rock. The enigmatic head held itself up a little more clearly. Beyond and behind me, the small, plateau vaguely joined the desert, which spread away until it disappeared, swallowed up by the surrounding darkness.
I gazed at the graceful lappets of the wide-flowing, wig-like headdress, whose outlines were now faintly discernible. The royal headdress gives the Sphinx majestic grandeur and complete distinction; qualities which are capped by the kingly cobra that rests upon the forehead and rears its upraised hood, by this uraeus-symbol of sovereignty and power ever worlds temporal and spiritual alike, by this emblem of both divine and human sovereignty. The figure of the Sphinx often appears in hieroglyphic writing as indicating the Lord of the Land, the mighty Pharaoh, and one old tradition even declares that the statue encloses the tomb of a monarch called Armais. Mariette, the French archaeologist and director of the Egyptian Museum at Cairo, took this tradition so seriously that he decided to explore